London late at night is pretty much like any other capital city late at night: by 2am, people are either making a mess or cleaning it up. Thankfully, tonight’s not my night to do the cleaning up.
Fletch quotes aside, I never thought I’d find myself looking out on the twinkling nightlife of London from a deluxe suite at the Park Plaza in 2021. As the year began, I felt pretty sure of only two things: first, that the lockdown was slowly but surely sending me mental and second that I’d eventually have to cave and get myself vaccinated.
Vaccination is a big word for me. I’m not merely needle phobic and not simply vasovagal, though I personally think both of these things demand a lot more sympathy than they tend to get. I have, as a result of needles, variously gone deaf, blind, suffered seizures, passed out, wet myself, turned blue, been taken by ambulance to a hospital and even been in the first stages of resuscitation when I’ve suddenly sat bolt upright and simply got on with whatever I was doing, much to the surprise of the doctors, dentists and family members involved. I’m always reminded of the scene in Fletch Lives where Chevy Chase climbs off the table in the morgue and asks the stunned caretaker if he managed to land the plane without any casualties. I had my own first ‘shot’ under the watchful eye of my wife, three nurses and an old school friend at the local surgery: it was largely uneventful with no negative side effects that I’ve been able to detect and no positive ones either (as I’m still ginger and I was repeatedly promised that the vaccine would CURE that).
So, here I am in London. If you zoom on that self indulgent picture of me you’ll see my son in the room behind, snoring away on an even bigger bed with a blissed out smile on his face. He’s equally happy to be out of the house during half term, especially as we’ve spent so many recent months trapped, like everybody else.
The Fear Index on the virus is huge and rightfully so, yet it really does seem to spread faster than the virus itself. Thankfully, London is on high alert and everyone seems to be doing their part. On our first day in the city, we visit Bubba Gump Shrimp for dinner, a venue almost entirely lost on me as I’ve only seen Forest Gump the one time and I turned it off after twenty minutes (I’m one of those dreadful people who adored Tom Hanks as a comedy actor in older hits like The Burbs and The Money Pit and really felt he hasn’t been quite the same since he turned his back on pure, unadulterated comedy). The menu is entirely mobile and everything is ordered and delivered in a way that promotes hygiene and the path of least contact: the food is great and almost worth trekking from the hotel, across parliament and past Downing Street for.
Downing Street is like Fort Knox: I’ve seen smaller steel barricades in a high security prison. I walked past quickly (in order not to make eye contact with the small squad of armed police patrolling the entrance) but was somewhat amused to see that they were all facing inwards, giving the impression that they were protecting the public from the Prime Minister instead of the other way around.
Now, it’s late and I’m looking out at the view below. It reminds me that the last time I came to London was to film an audition screen test for a Channel 4 show called ‘Spies’ – I aced the memory questions, remembering the name of every woman I’d met in the building and even nailed the psyche evaluation but failed the observation completely. When I was asked the colour of the flowers in the downstairs lobby, I stared blankly at the interrogator and said ‘We came upstairs just now?’ I was home in time for cornflakes.
Anyway, that was then and this is now. I’m trying to focus on the positives. I’m writing again, which is good. I have books doing the rounds and an agent working hard on my behalf, both good. I still exercise every day and I’m still doing the breathwork and taking the cold showers. I need the cold showers because for some reason the glass lift and plunging balcony outside my hotel room don’t conjure an image of luxury for me: they conjure the memory of Judge Dredd and those Mega City One tower blocks where mutant fatties turned themselves into human pizzas by leaping the barricades. It really is a long way down…
Tomorrow, I’m heading to the Tower of London in order to see if they’ve finally employed a ginger beefeater. If not, I might apply: I’ve had worse jobs and the constant temptation to make a grab for those fake crown jewels must make it a really exciting gig.
Onwards and upwards…